Don't Be Like Most Advisors Who Won’t Realize Their Business Vision

Don't Be Like Most Advisors Who Won’t Realize Their Business Vision

We work in an industry in which two-thirds of advisors say they are NOT on track to realize their business vision.

I find that sad, if not surprising. It’s sad for obvious reasons. It’s not entirely surprising because I’ve lived in the data for so long, digging deep into how advisors think about their businesses and their futures.

If you’re in the minority and exactly on track to realize your vision, then congratulations – it’s no small feat. If you’re in the majority then I’d suggest, humbly, that you need to look at your business planning very differently this year. Rather than thinking about incremental growth, I’d encourage you to think about your vision and the steps you need to take toward more transformative change.

Transformation, however, forces you to understand your starting point. You may be off track because you’ve ‘drifted’ or because you’ve ‘changed’ and that’s an important distinction.

  • If you’ve drifted then it seems clear that you need to reconnect with your original vision, to understand why it was so compelling and to map out a plan that will get you back on track.
  • If you’ve changed, then you need to invest the time in understanding what drives you today and ask if you have the courage to change your business to reflect that new vision.

Either way, getting back on track will require substantial effort and imagination. There are four things that are absolutely critical to getting back on track or re-defining your future.

1. Give Yourself Permission to Think Differently

If your goal is to live at the intersection of wild success and profound fulfillment, then you’ll not only need to act differently but to think differently.The more I study elite advisors, the more I realize that the challenge of hard work isn’t what holds people back. Too often we stumble on the first step—giving ourselves permission to envision a different future and coming to grips with the possibility of something greater for ourselves.

There are so many reasons we stop ourselves from being open to possibility, but three seem to dominate.

  • Reaching for a bigger life opens up the possibility of failure. If we don’t articulate the dream, we never fail. If we don’t seek something more, we’re forced to be satisfied with what we have.
  • It feels “selfish.” Many of us are trapped by a misguided sense of responsibility, one that keeps us moving in the same direction. It’s like being on a treadmill without being able to find the off switch.
  • It requires extraordinary vision. Often, the thing that holds us back is not an unwillingness to work hard, but a distinct lack of imagination about what is possible.

Perhaps there’s a less dramatic reason that we don’t push forward and it’s simply that life isn’t that bad.

Jim Collins authored one of my favorite books, Good to Great. In my mind, the first line of that book captures everything that keeps us stuck. “Good,” Collins says, “is the enemy of great.” What he doesn’t explicitly say is that good isn’t that great. When we settle for what we have simply because we have it, life can feel flat.

2. Get gritty

The concept of grit is gaining significant popularity. According to Caroline Adams Miller, a positive psychology expert, coach, educator and author of Getting Grit, grit is an extraordinary quality, despite the overuse of the term.

The concept of grit, in an academic setting, was first defined by Angela Duckworth, who in 2013 won a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant Award for her work. She defined it as “passion and perseverance in pursuit of long-term goals”.

One of the things that Duckworth studied is what separates extraordinarily high achievers from people who are very talented and who, despite that talent, don’t seem to be finishing at the top of the pack. They determined that the secret sauce was grit. Among other things, grit predicts who will drop out of West Point and who will win the National Spelling Bee.

The word ‘grit’ doesn’t always belie how important and poignant the concept is in our lives. We’re talking here in a business context, but grit is everywhere. It’s the single mother who gets up two hours early to study to complete a degree, the father who works three jobs because he wants something better for his family. It’s opening yourself up to challenges that seem almost impossible and starting over as many times as it takes because you know the fight is worth the prize. It’s what gets you through the toughest times in your life, be that a divorce, a death or what you consider to be an epic failure.

I asked Miller if grit can be learned. She was definitive that yes, it could. She suggests three strategies to help you up the ‘grit’ factor in your life and these will be critical in your pursuit of Absolute Engagement:

  1. Stress reduction. Miller says that many of the high achievers she coaches are intentional about integrating things like meditation and exercise into their lives.
  2. Your network. Miller says that gritty people hang out with gritty people. At West Point, she says, their way of dealing with people with low grit scores is to room them with people with higher grit scores. She points out that that is social contagion theory in action and it’s brilliant.
  3. Optimism. You can also learn to be more hopeful and optimistic. Many of the uber-successful use coaches to help them nurture this quality. Ultimately grit is about learning the traits of optimism and also hope, and this is a new muscle for many.

3. Nurture a Growth Mindset

As you move along the path toward your vision you’ll also need to nurture what researcher Carol Dweck refers to as a “growth mindset.” Dweck is one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of motivation and is a professor of psychology at Stanford University. A growth mindset refers to the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems. To achieve a great future we need to believe that we can learn and change and do things differently.

And what might sound slightly obvious is most certainly not, as Dweck’s research uncovers. The key to successful transformation, she found, is about whether you look at ability as something inherent or something that can be developed. Is it a bone or a muscle? In the case of the former, ability is fixed and is something to be “demonstrated.” In the latter, ability is “developed” and this is what she refers to as a “growth mindset.”

Why is this so important? It’s important because in order to take action on a vision that you may have had to pull from the recesses of your brain and heart and dust off, you’ll need to develop new skills. You’ll start, you’ll fail and you’ll push forward, but only if you believe that you not only deserve something more, but that you can learn how to improve.

To pursue a bigger vision is to take risks and to believe that you can learn to do things differently. Dweck points to a simple technique she saw used on school report cards. Rather than a failing grade, the report card said “not yet.” The children were under no illusions that they hadn’t done the work necessary to pass, but the message was clear that they just needed to keep trying rather than accepting the failure as an indictment on their future. When it feels tough, we may need to tell ourselves the same thing.

4. Clear the Decks

Perhaps the most important starting point of every great vision is clearing the decks – removing the obstacles that we put in our way. Personally,
I believe that change is only possible if you:

  • stop allowing the past to create your direction in future
  • start with a clean slate
  • open your mind to possibility
  • recognize the need for alignment between what’s important in your life and how you run your business
  • accept the possibility that if you focus time and attention on the things for which you have the most passion, you’ll significantly increase your chances of success

Getting started may be a simple as asking yourself if any of these barriers are real for you and addressing your own behavior. We all need to hold a mirror up to ourselves from time to time.

Julie Littlechild
Client Experience
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Julie Littlechild is a speaker, author, researcher, and founder of She helps successful professionals and entrepreneurs design businesses that support ... Click for full bio

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week: May 22-26

Most Read IRIS Articles of the Week: May 22-26

Here’s a look at the Top 11 Most Viewed Articles of the Week on, May 22-26, 2017 

Click the headline to read the full article.  Enjoy!

1. Capturing the Attention of Millennials: Be Relevant and Digital

I know Gen Y are stereotyped as being transient, digital natives who are impossible to capture, but that is just the world we live in today. Technology has caused a proliferation of advancements and the financial services industry is (or should be) feeling the pressure ... — Missy Pohlig

2. Factor in a Smarter Approach to ETFs

Combining an alternatively-weighted index with a multi-factor stock screening process can diversify uncompensated risk, potentially leading to less volatility in down markets and an overall smoother experience for investors. But what are factors and why should they be a major consideration for every ETF investor? — J.P. Morgan Asset Management

3.  Don't MAKE the List ... DO the List

There is something gratifying about jotting down all the things you need to do. It quenches one’s thirst for being organized and for wanting some control over one’s life generally complicated by too many things to do with insufficient time and financial resources to do them. — Roy Osing

4. Smart Financial Advice for Those New College Graduates

College graduation is a time of celebration and pride. It’s also a time of significant financial transitions—for new graduates as well as their parents. As an advisor, this is a great opportunity to connect with your NextGen clients to help them make smart decisions that position them for greater financial success throughout their working lives and even into retirement. — Laura McCarron

5. Advisors: Why You Need to Show off Your Bench

Let your prospects see what working with you will be like, including exactly who will be holding their hand along the way. — Paul Kingsman

6. Why Investors Should Have Confidence in the Future of Investment Management

How should investors feel with all the advances in robotics and technology in our industry in the near future? — John Alshefski

7. 2 Things to Take Your Business From Startup Into A Great Business

Want to know how to grow your business fast? Discover here two things that you need to smash in order for you to take your business from startup to a great business. — Stewart Bell​​​​​​​

8. The #1 Marketing Asset Every Financial Advisor Should Hold in the Portfolio

Unlike many other industries, most people in finance confront the reality on a daily basis that a market downturn they have no control over could cast them out onto the street. — Sara Grillo

9. The Gutless Generation: How Risk Aversion Is Inhibiting Millennial Success

One year after I risked everything to launch my own venture, I penned a short article chronicling my journey up to that point. One commenter responded with near-vitriol, wondering how I could be so misguided as to influence – encourage, even – others of my generation to take on extensive levels of risk in order to successfully launch a new business. — Brian Hart

10. Are Your Marketing Priorities Out of Whack?

People are automating hellos and introductions instead of taking 3 seconds to personally do it. Folks are requiring followbacks if they give you one. Everyone believes that ads are the answer. And business owners think they know what’s best for their social channels. — Ahna Hendrix​​​​​​​

11. 10 Steps to Successful Strategic Alliances

Business growth doesn’t come from wishful thinking. As you know, it takes a lot of hard work. The growth of your business is not an option – it is a necessity. Coordinating the right mix of strategies to gain market share and improve client acquisition rates is essential to advance your firm in today’s economy. — Michelle Mosher

Douglas Heikkinen
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IRIS Co-Founder and Producer of Perspective—a personal look at the industry, and notables who share what they’ve learned, regretted, won, lost and what continues ... Click for full bio